One of the best airline industry conferences around is the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading. ISTAT for short.
Don’t let the long name confuse you. This is the group you join if you sell airplanes, lease airplanes, want to lease airplanes, appraise airplanes, you name it.
As I have told PBB subscribers for years, it never matters what the U.S. airline industry is doing at any given point in time — you come to one of these conferences and these are the guys who make money whether the economy is up or down. Most recently, the downturn after 2001 didn’t particularly hurt their pockets either — as aircraft sales continued to soar internationally, even if U.S. airlines more or less stopped ordering aircraft.
But this year, for the first year that I have ever experienced –and I have been coming to these for more than 10 years — the tone is definitely different. Scottsdale is still gorgeous, but the mood here this week is definitely not what one usually encounters at an ISTAT function.
This year, as one person told me this morning, “It’s scary.”
Adam Pilarski, Senior Vice President with Avitas summed it up by saying, “It sucks. That’s an industry technical term by the way.”
Fred Klein, President of Aviation Specialists told me before his stint on the ISTAT Appraiser’s Forum, “I can’t believe that a handful of U.S. financial entities have managed to bring down the whole fucking worldwide financial system.”
I asked, “Fred, can I quote you on that?” Fred, “Yes, damn it.”
That kind of gives you a feel for the mood of the crowd. Deals are not getting done. Financing has dried up. Many aircraft values are down 20% since this time last year.
I have to hand it to the guys who put on the conference this year though. Is that an off-the-wall backdrop on stage or what? Doug Runte, Managing Partner with Piper Jaffray did look a bit uncomfortable when he was asked to come through the center of the turbine to the sounds of Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida” though. Doug moderated the Appraiser’s Panel. Doug’s a good guy. And an art history major to boot.
Big Catch for Tomorrow: The Leeham Report’s Scott Hamilton will be interviewing ILFC’s Steve Hazy tomorrow on stage. Will not want to miss that.
Tuesday Night: Robert Crandall, former Chairman and CEO of American Airlines will be honored by ISTAT with a lifetime achievement award. And guess who else is supposed to be in the house? Yep. Herb.
I would bet money we are going to have a little roast of Bob before the evening is over tomorrow night — compliments of Mr. Kelleher.